Month: December 2017

A Cold Snap Changes Everything

Here we are, mid-December and our first couple hard frosts have really cooled things off.  On the water yesterday it was actually a really nice day, but the air temps did not climb above the 40’s so it was really chilly.  I hate being cold (which is kinda funny because I’m originally from western NY, you know, near Buffalo), so I have learned to invest in really good clothes to fish in.  One of my native southerner friends told me “you’re a southerner by choice, it just took you longer to get here”!

If you do it right, you won’t have to wear so many layers you can’t move.  Get a real good base layer long underwear, one or 2 mid-layers and a nice Gore-Tex jacket and you will be comfortable.  We offer the best of the best of base layers at our shop (Wool Power) – its expensive stuff, but worth the money.  There are plenty of other options for a budget also, cold-pruf is one.  

A cold water redfish with a SCDNR tag. Note the life jacket!

Another thing I always like to emphasize this time of year is safety.  If you are fishing solo, do yourself and your family and friends a favor by always wearing a life jacket, and use your tether!  Every year it seems we hear of a fisherman being killed by the cold water.  You have literally seconds to survive in the cold water, because your muscles will seize up, keeping you from being able to swim.  Wear your PFD, it will save your life.  

OK, enough lecturing 🙂  

I’m gonna talk a little about cold water redfish. 

Another over-slot red on the chartreuse trouteye and pearl minnowz

Everyone knows this time of year they bunch up on the flats in huge schools.  So much fun to see and to catch them.  The fight ain’t much, it’s more like dragging in a log pretty much.  I’m not a huge fly fisherman but I’ve done my share and learned by trial and error that a killer offering for these fish is a simple unweighted deceiver.  I just tie a sparse amount of buck tail on a hook with a little dab of adhesive and you will find it lands super light and sinks very slowly.  Often you just need to let it suspend as a school passes by and one will pick it up.  

Another thing reds do is collect on deep structure.  Sometimes you would not believe how many fish can fit in a 10 foot diameter spot.  I’ve personally seen 50 fish caught out of the same spot several times.  Of course, if you miss the spot you will never know they were there.  Find the spot and its on!  Things to look for is deep rubble, rocks or concrete.   Also, fallen trees or shrubs.  Maybe a slight hole nearby any of the above.  These fish will often be in 10 to 20 feet of water.  Use your sonar to find likely spots and drop down and jig around.  This time of year I always ask SCDNR to double up on my tags as I can easily go through 25 in a single day.  To present your offering to these fish you need to go REALLY slow.  Think 2″ hops.  The pickup will be barely perceptible sometimes.  The best way to describe it is that it feels “weird”.  Count to 2 then set the hook.  Try it!

It’s a whole lot of fun, and remember conservation – handle them with care and release them to be caught again.  A fish is too valuable to be caught only once!

Trout are still biting. That’s a subject for another post!

Fishing Big Tides, or Winds (or Both!)

Yesterday I ducked out of work to get a quick session in before the coming big cold front and 3 consecutive days of rain and cold.  Usually a pre-front day results in a strong trout bite.  I knew we were coming off a super-moon and the tide would be strong, but the winds were also really strong.  It made for a really tough time to fish with artificials.  Some of the challenges are:

  • Getting the bait down into the strike zone
  • Managing the huge bow in your line
  • Feeling the bite and/or reacting in time to set the hook

This being said, the fish don’t seem to care that you’re having a hard time fishing!  I’ve had some really great catching on really windy days.  In fact, yesterday I was rewarded with a true trophy – more on that later.

The average size fish caught yesterday

So, here are some tips that can help you improve your catching on such days.  It’s gonna be a struggle, but you can still do okay… I’ll break it down into big tides, then big winds.

Big Tides

  • In order to get your lure down into the strike zone, generally go with a little more weight on your jig – the most I will go is 1/4 oz.  Beyond that I feel like you are messing with the presentation of the lure – it just doesn’t look natural on the fall.
  • Cast far up-current from your target zone in order to give the lure enough time to sink to the zone.  
  • Look for areas that have less current – these will be more productive.  With the exception of Striper, most fish don’t want to waste energy fighting a ripping tide to eat.  These areas will be in bays, areas where the river is wider, or back-eddies.

Big Winds

  • Line management is a big issue.  Try to position your boat so you are casting directly upwind or downwind.  If casting upwind with a baitcaster – you’re gonna probably backlash unless you’re careful.  I did this 2X yesterday – flinging a perfectly good lure off my line when the line stopped abruptly.
  • Keep your rod tip close to the water.  In general, it’s hard to work a jerk shad this way.  In these conditions I will use a paddle tail such as a Z-Man MinnowZ, because you can slowly swim it along the bottom with a low rod tip. 
  • Look for banks that have a close tree line upwind, as they will provide a wind-shadow.  This one is obvious, but many smaller twisty creeks are good places to go in high winds
  • At lower tides, you can often get down in a creek and the wind will be over you – it’s surprising how fishable they can be in high winds.

Hope this helps – 

So, anyway, I was generally frustrated fighting big tide and big wind and catching decent 15-17″ trout here and there.  Missed a bunch due to line-bow, etc.  Tried an area that had produced in similar conditions in the past and had a large strike.  Pulling drag in short aggressive runs, and I’m saying out loud “please be a trout”.  Managed this true gator trout – way over 20 inches, so took a quick timer pic and got her back in the water.  What a thrill!  

Gator trout caught on a Z-Man MinnowZ (Pearl) on a chartreuse Trout Eye jig

My personal upper-slot on speckled trout is 20″, so she was released

See you on the water!